Tropical disturbance brewing in Caribbean could affect Gulf Coast

Tropical Storm Leslie continues to push toward Europe

By Bryan Norcross - Hurricane Specialist

MIAMI - The Caribbean disturbance is being designated Potential Tropical Cyclone 14.  The system is a potential threat to the northern Gulf Coast next week.  Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Leslie is slowly sliding toward Europe.

Don’t be confused by the odd name of Potential Tropical Cyclone 14. It is simply a tropical disturbance that the National Hurricane Center is going to issue watches for.

The center of the system is in the Caribbean just east of Belize and a few hundred miles south of Cancun, Mexico.  The disturbance accompanied by a lot of tropical moisture.

Even though the upper-level winds are fairly hostile, the disturbance is very close to tropical depression or low-end tropical storm status.  The upper-level environment should keep it from intensifying very much over the weekend.  If or when it gets a name, it will be Michael.

Early in the week, a sharp dip in the jet stream is forecast to dive south over Texas. This should push the disturbance north toward the northern Gulf Coast.  It currently appears the system would start affect the coast late Tuesday or Wednesday -- most likely between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle. The west coast of Florida from Tampa Bay north to the Big Bend should stay informed as well.

It’s important to remember that forecasts for poorly developed or just-developing systems are always suspect, so it’s impossible to say exactly where it will come ashore or how strong it will be. The models present somewhat different scenarios with each run. Model accuracy should improve dramatically when the system gains some organization.  

The models are also forecasting upper-level winds favorable enough for the disturbance to intensify -- at least to some degree. It’s impossible at this point to know how strong the system will be when it reaches the northern Gulf. Stay tuned.

No direct effect on South Florida is expected. The same atmospheric pattern that is expected to push the disturbance north, however, will also pull significant tropical moisture over the entire peninsula -- potentially enough to cause flooding. The exact path of the moisture feed will be dependent on the track of the disturbance, which is, of course, still uncertain. But a track toward the northern Gulf Coast often puts the moisture over South Florida. It looks like a wet week ahead.

Tropical Storm Leslie is still strolling through the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s heading in the direction of Europe, but it’s uncertain if it will ever get there. Some models keep it looping around for the next couple of weeks.

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